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Posts Tagged ‘strength’

I was putting together an anecdote that took place in the early days of my teaching career. I had a decision to make about one of my students, a seven-year-old who had already amassed a poor reputation. My decision would probably affect his whole life. Should I follow all the strong evidence and treat him as a known trouble-maker or should I go with my gut and treat him as a small boy with nothing worse than mischief in his eyes? I lacked experience and I was being strongly advised to go with option number one.

I think this anecdote has a lot of story-strength for these reasons:

1. It’s about a child. Any story that focuses on children or animals will spark interest in your audience.

2.  The decision has long term, even permanent, effects for the child. This is not a decision whose effects will be forgotten in a week.

3. The decision-making battle is a strong one.  All the evidence and advice points to ‘treat him as a trouble maker’. I am new to teaching, inexperienced and lacking in self confidence. Who am I to reject the advice of trusted, experienced teachers? How can I possibly go with unsubstantiated gut feeling over all the evidence? It’s David versus Goliath.

3. Making the right decision has benefits to all. (Yes, I went with ‘just mischievous’.) The child starts to feel less of a pariah and is able to turn his energies in a positive direction. I develop greater self confidence. It turns into a win-win situation.

If, on the other hand, the decision had turned out positive for the child and negative for me the anecdote would not be so strong. In my speech I would have to ignore or play down the negative effects on me, otherwise I’d come across as a martyr. No-one really likes a martyr.

4. Most people relate to the anecdote because everyone has been new and uncertain in a job at some point in their life. It connects with an experience most of us have in common.

5. The anecdote has an element of suspense. Will she/won’t she make the right decision? And the situation and decision is very clear – I didn’t need to do a lot of explaining to make people understand.

This anecdote is a particularly strong one. When you come across your own really strong anecdotes store them for future use. Strengthen them further if you can. Analyze them to discover what makes them strong.

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